The Saratoga Sun -

Planning commission bids farewell to Grubb

Commission member chairs final meeting, discussion on filling zoning officer position dominates meeting

 


“I’m not the guy anymore.” Rory Grubb reminded Andy Van Tol. Dec. 13. After 11 years as a member of the Saratoga Planning Commission, Grubb chaired his final meeting of that body Tuesday, drawing a round of applause from his fellow members and about five members of the public in attendance.

Greg Cooksey, a former commission member, elicited the clapping by saying, “I would like to just thank you for all the work you’ve done.” Cooksey attended the meeting specifically to mark the occasion and said that during his time on the commission he benefited from Grubb’s knowledge and experience.

After Grubb’s term expires Dec. 31, the commission, buoyed by a yet-to-be named incoming member, will elect a new head at their next meeting Jan. 10, 2017.

With commission members Karl Smith and Chris Duke absent from the proceedings, the planners had a truncated agenda for Grubb’s last session.

For the first order of business, the commission heard Saratoga resident Dennis Eckes’ request for a variance. Eckes’ wishes to construct a carport on his property, but the structure is to be located on the “front” half of his lot, in violation of town ordinance.

Armed with a folder full of maps, diagrams and documents for the commission’s perusal, Eckes laid out his case for the exception: none of his neighbors disapproved, overhead power lines will have plenty of clearance and the structure will not impede visibility for motorists. After reviewing signatures from Eckes’ neighbors and looking at an overhead view of the area, the commission voted unanimously to approve the variance.

Having dispatched with Eckes’ request, the commission revisited a discussion of how the town can proceed in the absence of a zoning officer. The room’s previous atmosphere of relaxed amicability rapidly dissipated.

Saratoga’s previous zoning officer, Kent Smith, quit the position several months ago and the commission has yet to find a replacement. Following Smith’s departure, commission members gave vague and evasive answers when asked about the zoning officer position and who was filling it.

The lack of clarity left Van Tol, a Saratoga resident, pondering many questions. In a pointed exchange, he asked the commission how town code was being enforced and what their plan for moving forward was.

Commission member Will Faust said the job is a demanding one and that the town was having trouble finding the right person to fill it. The zoning officer should be “someone with the ability to interface with the public in the right manner to make sure we’re treating everybody fairly,” Faust said. “It’s going to require somebody with rhino hide,” added fellow commission member Rusty Rogers.

In the officer’s absence, Faust said Saratoga’s Town Clerk Suzie Cox was directing citizens with zoning issues to various commission members for help. For building inspections, Faust said “I think we can use folks out of Rawlins, if we need to, in the short term.” And when pressed by Van Tol on enforcement mechanisms, Faust said, “We can certainly designate one of the police officers (if needed).”

Sounding exasperated after fielding multiple queries from Van Tol, Faust finally told him, “We can’t fix it all at one time. I really wish we could. If we could just wave a magic wand, it would be great.”

Van Tol said he had been going to planning commission meetings for over four years, and added, “I’d be encouraged if I saw some progress.”

Answering the question of how to “redefine the position to make sure that it works for the future,” will be critical to successfully filling the sensitive role, Faust said. According to him, the town has several candidates in mind and hopes to fill the job quickly, though he declined to estimate when.

The next meeting of the Saratoga Planning Commission will be held 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 2017 in the Saratoga Town Hall.

 

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